A contemporary pile dwelling
Maria Giulia Zunino
Genny Augusti - Studio Architettura Leonardo
A house in a tree or under the sea is every child’s dream. But while no adult would want to live like Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò, the protagonist of Italo Calvino’s novel Baron in the Trees, a house on an island may be a far more realistic dream.
Take for example Albarella, an island 45 km from Comacchio and 30 km from Chioggia connected to Rosolina (Rovigo) by a bridge and requiring a pass for access. A car-free oasis measuring 5 km by 1.5 km in the northern Adriatic Sea, it is named after the white poplar trees that dominate its 528 hectares of nature in the Po Delta Regional Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The privately-owned island was formed through the accumulation of debris from the flooding of the river Po. In the 17th century the Republic of Venice put it up for auction, after which it passed through the hands of a series of noble families and entrepreneurs. Since 1988 it has been 51% owned by the Marcegaglia Group.
« A client of mine from Albarella, an architecture enthusiast, asked me to design a house that he could sell, » says Genny Augusti, founder of the Adria, Rovigo-based practice Studio di Architettura Leonardo. « He had purchased a plot of land with a two-storey building. The building itself was dilapidated and lacking aesthetic quality, but the location was stunning. »
The architect, a graduate of the IUAV (University Institute of Architecture in Venice), knows the area well. For the design of Villa Levante, she drew inspiration from water and lagoon constructions and exploited the presence of the sea just 150 steps away through the greenery to the east.
« The first sketch represented a pile dwelling, » the architect explains. « The project gradually took on the form of a house that – with the exception of the fourth bedroom – extends entirely over a single level alongside a swimming pool. Access is via a walkway leading to a short flight of steps made from suspended slabs, » she says. « The villa is formed from two intersecting parallelepipeds, one of which is horizontal, white, larger and more complex, while the other is vertical and dark in colour. » With its almost square layout, this second volume intersects the first at the edge of the dining area and emerges through its projecting flat roof, where it delimits the volume of the fourth bedroom with ensuite bathroom and culminates in the panoramic roof terrace. It derives its dark colour from the full-height porcelain tile cladding from Marazzi’s concrete-effect Memento series. Chosen in a large 150×75 cm size with a silver colour and installed with almost invisible joints, the tiles create a seamless surface. On the lower level they continue along the floor to emerge beneath the arcade leading to the swimming pool, while on the upper level they extend onto the terrace where they are used in a 20 mm thickness to ensure greater resistance to sunlight and salt spray.
Villa Levante is notable for its transparency, its interconnected interior and exterior, the sense of weightlessness enhanced at night by the low-level lighting, and the simplicity of its essential volumes emphasised by primary colours. At the same time it stands out for its attention to energy saving and the environment, its versatility and the many details that help to create a comfortable and pleasant living space, such as the small herb garden located behind the kitchen.